10 Days Free and Easy Europe Tour (2017) – Day 7 Cologne to Rotterdam

Cologne to Rotterdam Itinerary

We were finally heading to the Netherlands after this very brief stopover in Cologne. Initially, we planned to stay three nights in Amsterdam. However, the hotel rates in Amsterdam were insanely high. Our next best option was to stay two nights in Rotterdam before eventually staying the last night in Amsterdam and then fly home.

The hotel we booked for Rotterdam was Holiday Inn Express costing around 178 Euro for two nights for three persons. This rate was less than half the cost for a night stay over in Amsterdam for the same period.




Our train ride departing Cologne was 10.39 am with a change of train in Utrecht. This allowed us plenty of time to enjoy breakfast that came with our booking of Domstern Hotel in Cologne.

Nice German Breakfast at Domstern Hotel

It was already 8.30 am when we showed up at the cozy restaurant which wasn’t very big. The restaurant’s furnishing was like our room with an old world charm type of ambiance. There were some guests already having breakfast when we went to the restaurant.

The breakfast spread wasn’t huge like those we used to see in hotels in Asia Pacific but the food was interesting, nice and tasty. Of course, we didn’t expect Asian food. We were indeed very happy and thankful to sample traditional German breakfast, which was pretty good. It was an enjoyable breakfast to start our day.

Back in our room after breakfast, we refreshed ourselves to prepare for the under four hours train ride to Rotterdam. After a final round of packing, we went to the lobby to check out. Staying in Dosmtern Hotel was indeed very pleasant. The hotel staff were friendly and helpful. More importantly, the hotel’s proximity to the train station just under five minutes walk away was very suitable for us. Moreover, the hotel rate was very attractive too.


Train Ride from Cologne to Rotterdam

Lugging our bags along, we reached the train station in good time. We went to the platform and waited for a short while and our train ICE 158 arrived on time. We boarded the train and found three unreserved seats and then settled down for the train ride. It was a very pleasant ride on pretty flat land passing small towns and farmlands. The scenery was very nice too.

It wasn’t a very long ride as the train arrived Utrecht at 1.26 pm where we had to change to another train IC 2842 to Rotterdam. We would be visiting this small beautiful city Utrecht the next day. So we crossed over to another platform and boarded this train at 1.33 pm.

It was pretty much the same ride on flat land on a bright summer day. We finally arrived Rotterdam at 2.10 pm. The cost for the train ride from Cologne to Rotterdam was only 19 Euro each when booked early online.

Rotterdam Holiday Inn Express Hotel

After exiting the Rotterdam Train Station, we walked over to Holiday Inn Express nearby in under ten minutes. Rotterdam is such a nice modern city near the train station. It was a bright and windy day. Staff at the Holiday Inn Express were all smiles and so welcoming and friendly. Checking in was a breeze and we soon found ourselves walking to our assigned room.

The room given to us was very modern and clean, a stark contrast to the lovely old world charm hotel room at Domstern Hotel in Cologne. Wifi was good. Electric kettle with coffee and tea bags were provided. Bathroom was very clean and neat as well. Everything was in order. We were more than pleased with the room.

Rotterdam City Centre

So it was time to head out to explore Rotterdam and have lunch. Just crossing the road from Holiday Inn Express brought us into the heart of the busy city. The city here was so dynamic, full of people shopping and eating.

We found a Chinese Restaurant in town and went up for lunch. It was already past lunch time so the restaurant wasn’t busy. We had been having western meals for the past week so we were glad to taste Chinese food again. The lunch was good.

Back on the busy walking streets, we entered shops one after another but didn’t buy anything yet. This shopping venue was a change after arriving Cologne with all shops closed the day before during the bank holiday. We had an enjoyable time mingling with the crowds at this busy shopping and dining area as we continued our southward journey towards the Nieuwe Maas River. This was truly a summer day, so bright, windy and nice and we didn’t have to wear a jacket.

Erasmus Bridge

Soon we reached the riverfront. We then walked up the famous Erasmus Bridge, one of the icons in Rotterdam. This is the modern suspension bridge nicknamed “The Swan” designed by Ben van Berkel opened in 1996. Walking up the bridge, we saw a tour boat coming back with tourists after a river cruise. The river wasn’t very busy here.

So we continued walking up the bridge. There were other visitors walking as well while others were cycling or pushing their bikes up the bridge. Soon we reached the top in the middle of the bridge. We didn’t want to continue walking all the way across the bridge. We stopped here to admire the surrounding. It was very windy up here on a cloudless day with clear blue sky.

Nieuwe Maas Riverfront

Some time later, we walked back down the bridge the same way and then walked up near the riverfront. Here we saw those visitors coming back from the river cruise loitering and enjoying the river scene.

So we walked along the riverfront towards the de Boeg, a nice impressive monument. It was a nice walk passing a small park and we spent some time resting under the shadow of this monument to enjoy the pleasant day.

After the short rest, we continued our leisurely stroll along the riverfront. Looking back to the Erasmus Bridge was very nice. Why the locals nicknamed this white bridge “The Swan”, we have no idea. The bridge looked really lovely under this bright and windy day.

While walking and taking pictures, my favourite foldable waterproof cap bought in Sapa Vietnam two yeas ago was blown away by the strong wind. I tried chasing after it but it still ended up in the river. My wife and son were too amused and couldn’t stop laughing. At least I didn’t end up in the river was my consolation.



Along the riverfront, we saw the EY Building where Jackie Chan during one of his movies was seen sliding down the inclined glass paneled wall after a fight on the rooftop of the building. There were flags of many countries fluttering in the wind outside office buildings near the riverbank. We then crossed the road to walk towards the canals.

Markthal in Rotterdam

Approaching the canals, we saw the Riverboats Hotel. It was just a floating house on the canal. We didn’t see the benefit of staying here along the canal. This place was interesting but not very scenic though. There were other boats berthed along the canal. Ibis Hotel is along the canal as well.

We then walked on heading north towards the Markthal, a market in the city. Before arriving the Markthal, we saw the famous Cube Houses of Rotterdam. It was an interesting sight. We finally saw these unusual buildings with our own eyes. After snapping some pictures, we made our way to the Markthal just a few minutes ahead.

We then entered the Markthal. What greeted us was the very beautifully painted ceiling in the market. Looking outside the market was very pretty and interesting as well. The clear blue sky outside the market provided a very strong and nice contrast to the darkened market interior.

So it was time to explore the various food stalls in the market. Restaurants inside the market were very appealing too but we were not hungry yet as we had a very late lunch. There were also food samples for visitors to try out. We liked those coconut snacks. There were some visitors in the market but not very crowded though. We went down to the supermarket below the market and bought drinking water.

Food Festival Event in Rotterdam

After this we left the Markthal and walked back towards the train station. Not far outside the Markthal was a hive of activities. Apparently, a food festival event was taking place in the city. Many food stalls were set up in the open space.

Delicious food from many countries were available at this food festival event. This reminded us the food festival event that took place in Hoi An Vietnam during our visit in March. We walked through to check out some food stalls and then walked on back towards the city.

Along the way, we walked past the beautiful Grote of Sint-Laurenskerk, a protestant church in Rotterdam. This church building may not be as massive and impressive as the Cathedral in Cologne, it has charms of its own. Walking on, we passed a few shops selling bags and luggage. We saw tourists buying luggage and seemed to be quite happy with the prices from the shops here.

Crossing another two streets, we were back to the busy shopping area. At the basement atrium of a shopping mall, long stretch of tables with seats all occupied were serving set dinner. This setup looked like some kind of fine dining in an open area. This might be part of the food festival celebration as well. The mall was still busy with crowds at this hour nearly 7.30 pm. After all, this was summer.

Dinner in Rotterdam City Centre

We continued to browse shops and check out a good restaurant for dinner. There were many alfresco dining options out in the open walking street outside shops. The weather was great, with the sky still bright and windy out here as well, a very pleasant dining venue in the city. After walking around, we ended up in an Argentinian Restaurant. This restaurant was near the Chinese Restaurant we had lunch earlier.


This restaurant was run by Indians serving Western meals. While alfresco dining was available outside the restaurant, we requested to sit indoor to avoid cigarettes smoke outdoor. So we ordered dinner and as usual, we ordered our steak well done. Our food came shortly. The food was fine but the meal we had in the Argentinian Restaurant in Berlin was much better.

It was already 8.30 pm when we left the restaurant. This shopping area was considerably quieter though diners were still out in the open enjoying their dinner. We walked back towards Holiday Inn Express to settle down for the night. The reflections from Holiday Inn Express was pretty where the sun was soon to vanish for the day. The whole modern area in this part of the city with a fountain in the middle of the circle was very safe and pleasant.

Next Day Itinerary Planning

My wife and son went back to the room while I walked on towards the train station. There weren’t many passengers at the train station this time. The office at the train station wasn’t busy as well. I went to check out on information for trains to Utrecht and Leiden for the next day. Having gotten information I needed, I returned to Holiday Inn Express for the night.

Back in our nice, modern and comfortable room with excellent wifi, we enjoyed the evening catching up with family and friends and entertained ourselves with internet access as TV programs in English were close to nonexistent. We then deliberated about our itinerary for the next day whether to visit Utrecht and Leiden or even include The Hague or just Utrecht alone. So we’ll wait and see how the weather would turn out before deciding the next day.

It was a wonderful day out here in Rotterdam. We had a fabulous time. The train ride of 3 hours 20 minutes journey was very easy. Had we come directly from Berlin, the train ride of nearly seven and a half hours might be a little too long.




So we were finally in the Netherlands. It was great to be here. We had not visited windmills yet. So hopefully, we could get near one the next day. Bedtime came and soon we were heading to the second day in the Netherlands.

Continue to Day 8

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